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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2008

Students at Waite happy to renovate

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

While many of their classmates spend their Saturday mornings sleeping in or playing video games, Waite High School students Cameron Neubert, Javier Garcia, and twins Brandy and Brittany Morris are out playing house - literally.

The students are four among many at their high school giving back to their community by volunteering time to renovate a century-old house located at 187 E. Broadway St. in East Toledo.

The estimated 3,000 square-foot, two-story house with an attic and basement is believed to have been built in 1902 and is owned by the Housing East Redevelopment Corp., a nonprofit group that builds and renovates houses to sell to low and moderate-income individuals and families.

Housing East Director Paul Hecklinger said Waite students have been fixing up their community one home at a time since the early 1990s, but this generation of students said this house is different.

"They call it the Waite house," Javier said. "It's right across from Waite High School. There's a couple of people who owned it who went to school here. My teacher [Danny Clayton] talked about that too."

Mr. Hecklinger said his company bought the house in December of 2006.

Becky Schardt is the coordinator at Waite for the schools' Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness Undergraduate Program, or GEAR UP.

The federal program, which provides financial assistance to participating students, awards them with community service points that can be redeemed for financial credit once they enter select post-secondary schools, colleges, or universities.

Ms. Schardt said many Waite GEAR UP students use the Waite house as an opportunity to invest not only in their community, but in their own future.

"It helps students when they're in high school perform well when they take an active role in the program," she said.

Students began working on the house in February and the property is scheduled to be ready for sale in about a year.

Mr. Hecklinger said the high school's Carpentry II vocational program students have been working on the house during the week and on weekends as part of a class project.

"The kids are learning framing, carpentry, construction methods, the way things are built, [and] how to set doors," he said. "When we get done with it, they will learn how to set kitchen cabinets, how to plan a house, do some plumbing, and stuff like that."

Javier Garcia is a member of the Carpentry II class.

"I tore up the whole kitchen floor a couple of months ago," he said. "Right now, we're putting up insulation and drywall."

Brittany and Brandy Morris said the project gets mixed reviews from some of their friends.

"Some people who don't' do anything, don't get out of the house, they question why we do it," Brandy said.

"People I know, [when] I tell them about it, they say 'Oh, I want to do it,'•" Brittany said.

Zoo Teens, the Toledo Zoo's youth volunteer group, and Waite's Indian 100 Leadership Team are among other groups involved with the project.

Cameron said he thinks the century-old house will still be around in another 100 years for another group of students.

"It's gonna be there for a while," he said. Javier just hopes whoever buys the house appreciates all the work that went into building it.

"I hope they see and realize people from Waite helped build their house, to take the time to look at it and enjoy it," he said.



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